This is an introduction to the upcoming meghapixel photo project that has been dancing around in my head.
meghapixels: a prologue
Saint Kitts and Nevis
All my life I hated my portraits from school picture day. My brother was always the more photogenic one. But, this isn’t about me, or even him. It’s where our story starts.
In my early twenties I entered the realm of the “profile picture.” I took pictures that portrayed what I thought was my good side. I obsessively untagged every “unflattering” photo that could ever have existed online. I cropped, I photoshopped, I instagrammed, I airbrushed, I filtered, I posed, I pouted, I lightened, I brightened, and I put on a performance that the world believed was my life.
When photography first came into existence, its goal was to capture the human experience. But like many of my generation, it become a new phenomenon that ran on the fuel of “likes,” “favorites,” and “hearts.” We began to constantly look forward to these buttons being hit; and have unnecessary anxiety if we fall short of them. Our lives become invested in relations with our followers and (perhaps real) friends and how they look at our lives, while losing our own perspective.
At some point photos that are supposed to tell our stories, became reflections of our social worth. They become evidence of our experiences so we can super-Mario-brothers-green-mushroom “1 UP” our peers. Making us feel validated and gratified that at least the world sees us as a fantastic person in our virtual life.
But this isn’t about blaming social media, or the even the apps we use. These apps are designed to keep us connected to the world. But when did we become disconnected with ourselves? It’s that moment you stop and realize your reason for doing all this is driven by the uncomfortable question that keeps us up at night –if the world saw me for whom I really am, would they still accept me? Rather than painfully answering it, we turned to selfies over self-growth. It became easier to conjure up lies, illusions, and narratives to keep the measure of likeability by our colleagues in our favor. God forbid we ever look “stupid” in the eyes of people who befriend us, but whom we don’t really like but need to please. It all starts with that window to our lives: that photograph that you must must MUST upload.
But this isn’t about the more deep-seated issues that lead to this behavior. This blog started out as my way of leaving a “crumb trail” like Hansel & Gretel did in the forest so they could find their way back home. I’ve used it as didactic to always root for what is real, and it’s no different with photographs. For me, my photos have become my outlook on the world. And like anything in life, how we see the world starts with the relationship we have with ourselves. Like Picasso who marked the growth of his style with periods of painting in different colours, it was time for final curtain call for the profile picture era. My problem was never obsessively editing, filtering, and wanting all the layers that Photoshop could add. It’s what I was left with when it was all taken away. As I changed, so did my photos. It became my way of hitting pause on the clock for a second. With fresh eyes I became a tourist in a still medium, and time travelled through my own past.
I started meghapixels® as a portrait project to tell the tales of individuals whom I’ve chosen to photograph. It’s a collection I’ve been putting together of people I’ve crossed paths with in life and left a lasting impression. They’re people whose quirks and flaws I admire, who inspire me, and those who thought they were invisible, even to their own character.
My friend Vivek, who constantly loses his belongings while we’re in Nevis, always says – “if it’s not a person, don’t worry about it. Everything else can be replaced.” Despite the lack of responsibility, it’s a wonderful attitude towards life and how we see each other. That’s what I’ve decided this is about.